“Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” Luke 24:29
The Gospel for today is one of the most dramatic of all the incredible stories of the resurrection of Jesus, albeit they are all dramatic. This is the story of the encounter of Jesus with two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus. For reasons not identified they don’t recognize him. He asks a series of questions to draw the story out. As they reach a destination they speak the above words to invite Jesus to stay with them. In effect they invited Jesus into their homes. It was there that in the “breaking of bread” Jesus was made known to them and to us.
Those words that began this devotion have had an incredible effect upon me as I have heard them throughout the years. Almost always they have been in the context of worship, precisely the service most know as Holden Evening Prayer and quite often it has been at Holden Village. That community that lives and breathes God’s presence in the North Cascade Mountains is a place I have lived and visited since the mid 90s. Interestedly it’s the one place where it isn’t called Holden Evening Prayer, it’s always been “Vespers 86.” There is a story behind that, but it would take too many words to explain here.
The words when sung in this context are a powerful invitation to authentic community. Just as I know they have been in the faith communities in the Treasure Valley. Now, as each of us has mentioned in these devotions, it is not possible to gather, but the words remain calling Jesus into our homes. Up at Holden they cannot gather for worship, just like you and I cannot gather. A central facet of life at Holden is not weekly, but daily worship. I grieve for my community there and the losses they are experiencing. I was to be on teaching staff this spring and many friends were to teach there this summer. That cannot happen now and I grieve that as well.
We are all grieving and we are caught in the middle of it and we wonder when will it be over? We are grieving for we cannot see the sick friend, we grieve for all the dead, not just the ones we knew, but for the now over 50,000 ones from our country and more throughout God’s world. We grieve for the lack of funerals. We grieve the lack of human touch if we live alone. So much grief to bear! As the psalmist says, “I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where shall my hope come?”
The grief and questions have been part of the human condition for all our existence and they are magnified by the pandemic. Cleopas and his companion were in the midst of crushing grief. All their hopes have been crushed as Jesus died on the cross. Stories of resurrection have yet to penetrate through their grief. They feel lost and alone. In the middle of it comes Jesus. Unrecognized at first, but so compelling is his presence that they desire for him to continue to be with them. They somehow know they cannot get through their grief without him.
We too depend on Jesus, we in some ways invite him into our homes knowing that we can’t get through this grief without him. The prayer I first learned around my grandma’s table begin with these words, “Come Lord Jesus be our guest…” My grandma was a woman of deep faith and deep grief. She buried two husbands and five children, three within a week of one another. She knew the grief, but she was sustained by presence of the crucified and risen Jesus. It’s the same presence known to you and me in this time of our deep grief.
Deep grief is real, but so is our hope. Deep grief wasn’t the end of the story today. Faith and transformation brings this story to its conclusion, but not it’s end. For now the story is ours. We are traveling through grief and must stay inside for now, but we don’t do it alone, even as many, like me, are physically alone. Grief and hope are our companions at this time. Both will be with us for a long time. Yet remember, so is Jesus and he will ease our grief and sustain our hope.
Let us pray...
Holy one, we lift up our hearts to you this day. Grief is present, but still there is hope. We trust in your presence as we travel this pandemic road. We deeply miss one another, but we know this is a time to be separate, but not alone. We are not alone for you are with us. We invite your presence into our lives, into our solitary homes this and every day. Sustain us in our hope for a new day as we explore new ways to be your people in this time. May we, who have experienced and been sustained by the hope and faith of Jesus, bless all those who come into our lives. We lift up all those who serve us now, doctors, nurses, health care workers, fire fighters, police and all who serve. In Christ’s name. Amen.